Teach Us to Pray

 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  - Matthew 7:7

Awakened from sleep in the middle of the night, foggy in my thoughts, but automatic in routines, I reach for the night stand. But everything's wrong, out of place. A few seconds pass and I realize, “I’m traveling.” I’m not at home.

In this issue of Grow Deep, we’re on a journey, but we carry with us a little piece of home. We call it, “The Lord’s Prayer.” Jesus is its author. We pray, “Our Father” with billions of others in that simple address. It’s likely you’ve memorized it without even trying. It’s a familiar place to knock and receive an open door. It’s home.

At “home,” many of our routines are automatic. We rarely give them a second thought. When it comes to this familiar prayer, many share concerns that traditions of praying the prayer frequently have reduced us to the mindless babbling against which Jesus warns us. It is a caution well considered. Our own homes are places that need spring cleaning, maintenance, and intentional remodeling. Our homes serve as places to retreat in quietness and places to share community. For the next seven weeks, I believe God plans to do some “dusting off” of neglected surfaces and some significant remodeling in other areas. It will be a journey that allows us to experience the dynamics of personal, intimate conversations with Him as well as the experience of sharing Him in community. Wherever your life journey is right now—a noisy city, a lonely wilderness, a mountain top vista, at a fork in the road—this prayer is a little piece of home for all of us.

This Grow Deep journey coincides with the season of Lent. It’s a season where Christians are intentional about focusing on a specific spiritual discipline to grow closer to God. Many of those disciplines are fasting disciplines (like giving up chocolate). But with this issue of Grow Deep, we encourage you to expand your experience with the spiritual discipline of journaling. Many Christians practice journaling as a way to awaken their senses. It can be a way to more keenly listen to God speaking in their lives. Journaling records the thoughts inspired by reading, reflecting upon, and praying God’s Word. It may chronicle the travels and events of the day—as a traditional journal does. This journal, however, will also carry with it the voice from “home” with Our Father.

I confess that I’m not very good at this. I’m a guy and tend to avoid journaling. But instead of going on some Lenten diet, I’m going to try this for seven weeks. I believe it will freshen up my home with the Lord and my travels in this temporary time called life. I encourage you to join me. Make a 15-minute appointment to listen to God speak and to journal with Him daily. I suggest Jesus’ introduction to the Lord’s Prayer as a guide: “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” (Matthew 6:6)

Go home: Pray the Lord’s Prayer.

Go to your room: Reflect on one phrase from the Lord’s Prayer (e.g. Hallowed Be Your Name) as indicated in the Grow Deep journal.

Close the door: Turn off the noise of your plans and obligations for the day ahead. Silence your phone, email, etc. Quiet your thoughts. Breathe. Visualize closing that door.

Pray: Be simple. Pray the phrase of the week from the Lord’s Prayer. Repeat it. Try praying your own simple paraphrase of those words. Try praying Samuel’s prayer, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)

Seek the Unseen: Read and reflect on the Scripture verse provided in Grow Deep. Let it be a place for your Father to show Himself to you. Seek Him and expect to find things you haven’t seen before.

Write: Journal what you thought and heard. Don’t worry about getting it right or clear. Being at home with your Father is the goal. When relationships grow in intimacy, they grow in clarity. If God seems silent, write about that. It can be revealing to journal times when God seems silent. The psalmists did!

Hunt for Rewards: Jesus concludes His introductory remarks by saying, “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Your journal is that secret place. Review your journal frequently. It’s a place to keep asking, seeking, and knocking at the door of your true home with God. When you review, you’ll be surprised what you wrote and didn’t fully understand at the time. Let God’s Spirit teach you to test it and show you how He refines. The more we are at home with our Father, the more we will see rewards that were always there but passed over.

I want to thank Mark Buchschacher, Sandi Geis, Zech Teasdale, Edie Grieshaber, Pastors Ron Nelson, Joel Christiansen, and Brian King, my fellow journalers and partners in this project. Their unique gifts and experiences highlight the importance of sharing this journey in community. Jesus’ call to pray in secret isn’t a call to isolation. He teaches us a prayer life that is at home—in the stillness of retreat and also in celebrating the joy of community—as we call out, “Our Father.”

Pastor Bill Geis
Lent 2017